Real lives: The good feud guide

The public slanging match is a venerable tradition - and today's stars are just as keen as yesterday's, says HESTER LACEY

At a dinner last week to mark the 20th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's election, a touching reconciliation took place. Lady Thatcher laughed and joked with Sir Edward Heath for the first time in over two decades. The two politicians had detested each other ever since Lady Thatcher ousted Heath as Tory leader in 1975 - and then refused to give him the Foreign Office post he coveted. On the day her premiership ended, he rang her office with the words: "Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice." Until last year's Conservative conference, the two had not spoken since 1976, and their unprecedented appearance on the same stage for a debate over Europe was a terse occasion. Now the two appear if not to have kissed, at least to have made up.

It may have taken them over 20 years, but they've done it. Why? Could it be that they have decided they actually quite like each other? Improbable. It seems more likely that, neither being global or even national figures any more, it just no longer seems to matter. High-level feuding is for those with something to prove and something still to play for. And it generates lovely headlines and lots of public interest - so there's always a good reason to stick the knife in.

The latest to get nasty are Rupert Everett, taking a swipe at Boy George's weight, and Oasis, poking fun at Robbie Williams' avoirdupois. This kind of petty "you're fat" bitchiness is supposed to be the traditional preserve of women, but it seems men are quite able to dish it out as well - as they can the playground rivalry of primary school "best friends". Take Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown, vying for Tony Blair's attentions. A new biography of the former Trade Secretary shows the two of them falling over each other to swop football cards and conkers with the most popular boy in the class, kicking each other on the shins to get closest. Blair had to write and plead with them to establish a better working relationship and to overcome what he called a "titanic but ultimately irrelevant feud". To no avail.

Meanwhile, Damon Albarn recently made a forlorn attempt to extend an olive branch to the ferocious Gallagher brothers, having been pretty comprehensively trounced in the "We're the most authentically streetwise and gritty band around, ner ner ner ner ner" competition they've been waging for the past four years. "It would be nice if we could all get along. I'm not being a hippy here but it would be nice if there was a harmonious thing musically in Britain," he offered plaintively. The Blur/Oasis vendetta turned out to be rather more taxing than he ever imagined. "I couldn't walk down the street without someone shouting 'Oasis!' People would open their windows and turn up Oasis. It was a nightmare."

But if the men are doing well, the women can still hold their own in the feuding stakes. Next month, the Julie Burchill Fan Club Convention is to be staged at the ICA. It will feature a shooting gallery with pictures of her enemies: so far Steven Berkoff, American feminist Camille Paglia, former colleague at the Modern Review Toby Young and the royal family will be in the firing range. "It sounds like the gallery is shaping up very well, but I'd like to add Annie Lennox," she told one interviewer, "because once when I was watching her on a Saturday morning children's TV show with my son Jack, who was about five, she upset him by saying she'd like to put my head in a food-mixer."

And last month, writers Victoria Glendinning and Shirley Conran fell out badly over their shared husband, Kevin O'Sullivan. Ms Conran described her former spouse as a "layabout" and dismissed their marriage as a "big mistake". Ms Glendinning, who is currently married to Mr O'Sullivan, was not best pleased. She fired off a letter warning: "If you do it again there will be hell to pay from me, so look out. This is the second time to my knowledge - there may have been more - that you have libelled him. Just how flaky can you get?" "She is obviously more interested in my ex- husband than I am and I wish her good luck with him. She'll need it," responded Ms Conran.

The question of how to resolve a public feud without both parties losing face is a tricky one. "If an argument comes from a public person, even if it is driven by pride and hatred, the stakes are much higher," says Susan Quilliam, a relationships psychologist and author of Stop Arguing: Start Talking (Vermilion, pounds 6.99). "Being seen to be wrong is a great loss of face." She says that some famous feuders don't want to make up. "Some may actually get off on the heightened publicity the argument gives them - it's something for the press to talk about." A public making-up is necessary, she says, plus a private agreement never to return to the bones of the quarrel in the future. But both parties must have some interest in making the reconciliation work. "One person can maintain a dignified silence, but it's very hard if the other is still making grand public statements," she says. However, she points out that favourable press coverage of a magnanimous make-up could be an advantage. "Look how Hillary gained brownie points by appearing as a mature individual over the situation with Bill."

But keep fighting and you'll hang on to the headlines, because a juicy on-going quarrel is irresistible - and always has been, since the days when Bette Davis's feud with Joan Crawford culminated in the remark: "The best time I ever had with Joan was when I pushed her down the stairs in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane."

RUPERT EVERETT

VS BOY GEORGE

The two former friends have fallen out in a big way. "Who wants to see that big blob on telly?" asks Everett of George. "Too bad there's not a closet big enough for him to hide in." George ripostes: "I've seen Rupert's latest movie, and he certainly has a better body than me - but I've managed to keep my youthful looks and I don't have any lines."

PETER MANDELSON

VS GORDON BROWN

Constant bickering, storming and tantrums, according to the new Mandelson biography. Their mutual loathing dates back to 1994 when Mandelson refused to support Brown's bid to lead Labour after John Smith's death. Tony Blair attempted to peacemake in what he called a "titanic but ultimately irrelevant feud", but the task was beyond him.

GERI HALLIWELL

VS REST OF SPICES

Front-woman Geri bailed out of the group and swapped the raunchy Spice image for her new role as a well-scrubbed UN ambassador. She hinted mysteriously at the depth of the schism. "There were adult reasons why I left, but our fans are children, and I didn't want to shatter their dreams." Conspicuously absent at Spice weddings and births since her abrupt departure.

OASIS

VS ROBBIE WILLIAMS

The Gallaghers call Robbie "tubby-arsed Williams". Robbie Williams suggests that Oasis's musical ability is a bit limited: "I knew I could write poetry, but I also knew that I only knew three chords, and these three chords can't last forever ... unless you're Oasis." He is also sniffy about their rough manners. Speaking at a gig in Los Angeles, he said: "I'm nothing like my in-bred cousins from Manchester who spit on the audience."

Suggested Topics
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Sustainability Manager

    Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

    Graduate Sustainability Professional

    Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

    Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

    £850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

    Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

    £100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn